The Leading Edge

Cricket gets the suits it deserves, and it's partly our fault

Cricket in South Africa would seem to have learnt nothing about itself in the past few years

14 April 2019 - 00:00 By Telford Vice

People who say bad things about the suits aren't hard to find. But contempt for them is now so pervasive the feeling that the game as we know it in South Africa is teetering on the cusp of calamity is palpable.
It's no longer shocking to hear that top administrators drink not only too much, but also too expensively. Or they wouldn't know a no-ball from a wide. Or one of them had what they thought was a bright idea to save money: "Why do we have to start every game using a new ball?"
Cricket rolls its eyes at this kind of thing, keeps calm and carries on. But matters have reached another level when you hear that the few remaining sponsors are on their way out the door and potential backers are running in the other direction, that broadcasters are not nearly as bullish as they used to be, that the pit of losses is bottomless, that the same people who negotiated the future tours programme also complain about it, and that questions about finances asked by the sole generators of those finances - the players - are ignored.
And it's hardly edifying that four governance and compliance figures have left Cricket South Africa (CSA) in little more than 12 months.
But a new stage of alarm was reached on Thursday when the chief executive of the South African Cricketers' Association, Tony Irish, was locked out of a meeting that involved other kinds of suits: those who get the job done.
Yes, they exist, and in significantly greater numbers than their useless and/or dangerous counterparts. But, like efficient wicketkeepers, umpires, ground staff, scorers and the pilots of aircraft that don't crash, they largely go unnoticed.
Good administrators are neither seen nor heard, mostly because they're too busy working hard to make sure things are as they need to be. Several of them were in the same room in Sandton on Thursday and Friday for a gathering of CSA affiliates' chief executives. Members of CSA's executive committee were also there. Irish should have been, too, as he has been previously.
That he was barred makes you wonder what others fear might happen if competent, committed administrators from different, but complementary avenues of the game get together at a time when cricket in our country faces great challenges?
Perhaps that the useless and/or dangerous among them will be exposed as such, and that eyes will stop rolling and focus on what, exactly, they bring to the party? Besides an expensive thirst, that is.
You wonder what the players make of all that, or those who haven't already pushed off to less worrying pastures. And that with the World Cup squad set to be announced on Thursday. Not an ideal way to get into the right frame of mind for an important assignment, is it, to discover that someone who has been mandated to look after your best interests has been shut out of important discussions?
Cricket in South Africa would seem to have learnt nothing about itself in the past few years.
Here in the trenches of the press, those of us who came to know by rote the facts and figures of how R4.7-million in bonuses paid to CSA after the 2009 Indian Premier League had not been properly declared to CSA's governance committees have now committed to memory the facts and figures of CSA's projected loss of R654-million in the four-year rights cycle that will end in 2022.
Nobody trusts the suits to do the right thing - not the players, not the sponsors, not the public, not the press. If that could lead to the game being run better, that would be progress. But it doesn't, perhaps because we are so used to the game being run poorly that we couldn't imagine anything else and so are complicit in its failing.
"Every nation gets the government it deserves," Joseph de Maistre wrote. Or, as Janis Joplin said, "Tomorrow never happens. It's all the same f***ing day, man."
They're both right, of course...

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